Thursday, June 23, 2011

Waikiki Meatballs

I tried this recipe a couple years ago when I found it in my good ol' Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and it was an instant hit. (Here is a copy of the original recipe on Allrecipes.) I obviously had to alter it to make it gluten-free, but I changed a few other things as well. The main thing I changed was the sauce -- I like a little more sauce than the original included, so I make about a half recipe extra. I also reduced the sugar, because the original was much too sweet for me, especially considering it already has big chunks of pineapple in it that are plenty sweet. Finally, I added the zucchini because it seemed to be sadly lacking in veggies. A bit more zucchini than what I added wouldn't hurt, actually!

[Picture coming soon]


1.5 lbs. ground beef
2/3 c. crushed GF cracker crumbs*
1/3 c. minced onion
1 egg
1/4 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbs. cornstarch
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white vinegar
2 tbs. water
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 (20-oz.) can pineapple chunks -- drained, juice reserved
1 tbs. olive oil
1/3 c. chopped green bell pepper
1 c. chopped zucchini

4-6 servings cooked brown rice

1. Combine beef, cracker crumbs, onion, egg, milk, ginger, and salt. Mix thoroughly and shape into meatballs. Place on a broiler pan and cook at 350º for 20-25 min. (May be somewhat pink inside after 20 mins, should be cooked through at 25 mins.)
2. While meatballs are cooking, saute pepper and zucchini in oil in a large frying pan. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, brown sugar, vinegar, water, soy sauce, and reserved pineapple juice. Stir until smooth. Pour into same pan as used for veggies. Cook, stirring consistently (a whisk would be good), until mixture thickens and boils (about 5 min for a cool pan, but if pan is still warm from veggies, this will only take 1-2 mins). Stir in meatballs, pineapple, and veggies. Warm over medium heat until everything is heated through. Serve over rice.

*I normally use Trader Joe's "Savory Thins" (rice crackers). Other options: GF bread crumbs (may want to add about 1/2 tsp. extra salt), or GF ginger snaps. If using ginger snaps, reduce or omit ginger, depending on how gingery the cookies are. I used Trader Joe's GF ginger snaps, which have a very strong ginger flavor, and was able to omit the ginger altogether.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I don't think that most spaghetti sauces include gluten, but hey... some of us are just picky enough to make our own. Orrrr... we forget it at the store and decide to make something up on the fly. Take your pick.

My favorite spaghetti sauces are the ones that include a bunch of chunky vegetables. Unfortunately, my children do not share in that preference. In fact, if I give them spaghetti sauce with bits of onion and pepper in it in particular, they will either refuse to eat it, or they will pick all of the veggies out before consuming. I'm not sure where these children came from, because they don't take after me OR my husband in this respect. I'm hoping they will grow out of it.

But in the meantime, I was left with this predicament as I pondered my homemade spaghetti sauce. Do I leave the veggies out and lose my desired flavor, or do I leave them in and have a battle at the dinner table over uneaten food? Solution: include the veggies, then pour the whole thing into the blender or food processor before adding to the girls' pasta. I know you are probably all thinking "Duh!", but I was pretty proud of that idea. Worked like a charm, too! Not a peep of complaint over unwanted veggies in the sauce. And it was still pretty darn good, too. (I left a bit of the chunky stuff out for myself, and I thought the kids' version might have actually been better.)

Anyways... on to the recipe...


* 1 tbs. olive oil
* 3 large cloves garlic
* veggies as desired (I used 1/2 a large green pepper and 1 small onion, both diced. Other ideas could include chopped mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, or whatever you like)
* 1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
* 1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes
* 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
* 1-2 tbs. of fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried basil
* 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
* 1-2 tsp. salt
* 2 tbs. wine or vinegar (whatever kind you prefer -- I used white vinegar because other vinegars and wines have been bothering me lately for some unknown reason)*
* 1/4 c. apple or white grape juice

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute garlic and veggies until tender. Add tomato products, seasonings, and liquids. Stir well. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer about 30 minutes for best flavor. Puree in a blender or food processor if desired.

* I probably would normally have added wine but for the reason above. Also, my husband is a huge fan of vinegar, so he enjoys the extra little tangy zip. This is a slightly more tangy spaghetti sauce rather than much of a mellow or sweet sauce, but we certainly enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Taco Scramble

Ever wanted a taco, but didn't want to bother with the hassle of eating it out of a crunchy (falling apart) taco shell or a soft corn (falling apart) tortilla? Or perhaps, like me, you don't like to bother with getting all the different veggies and fixings out so that everyone can build their own custom taco, which only results in more mess to clean up and more leftovers (that will probably never get eaten) because you weren't sure how much to put out.

Meet the one-stop taco. My family first came up with the idea for this dish while we were in the Virgin Islands, so we called it "Virgin Gorda beef." But since no one would understand what that is, I'm calling it "taco scramble." Basically, it's most of the stuff you'd want in a taco, without the shell, in an easy-to-clean-up mixture.


This is a tasty, filling meal that is made even more desirable to me because I don't have to put it away leftovers in 10 separate little baggies... Just scoop and dump it into one container! (Minus the container for lettuce or rice, anyway.)


1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
3 large stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 a large green pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup water
1 packet or about 2 tbs. taco seasoning
1 tsp. oregano
1 (15-oz.) can beans (black, pinto, kidney... whatever suits your fancy)
1 cup frozen corn (optional)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
lettuce and/or rice as desired
shredded cheese (optional)

1. Begin browning beef in a large frying pan. Add onion, celery, and pepper and cook until beef is browned and veggies are almost tender. Drain beef fat.
2. Add water and seasonings and bring to a boil. Lower heat. Add beans and (if desired) corn. (To be honest, I definitely would have added corn, but I didn't think about it until after I made the meal and took the picture above. Doh!) Simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is mostly absorbed and beans and corn are heated.
3. Remove from heat. Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Serve as is, or over lettuce or rice (or with added lettuce over rice... whatever). Top with cheese if desired.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fresh Salsa

Okay, so I was a little "take it or leave it" with that last recipe, but THIS one, I can promise you, will not disappoint. This is from my sister Katie who married a man from Texas under the condition that she would learn how to cook good Mexican food, and she definitely delivered on that promise. I'm not positive where she got the recipe or whether she made it up, but wherever it came from originally, it is daaaang good. When we have a family gathering in the warmer months, this salsa almost always makes an appearance, and it usually DISappears within about 10 minutes of being out on the snack table. Katie usually has to make one batch for snacking before the meal and another batch for the meal itself, because the first batch won't last till then. I made it myself for the first time last week, and until then I had not realized how easy it was! I will definitely be skipping the store-bought stuff from now on when I want a chip dip. Normally, the store-bought stuff gets used once and then goes bad in the fridge, but I finished this off by myself within a few days. And uhh... I guess I ate it up so fast I forgot to take a picture. Whoops. I'll get back to you on that.


1 large can whole tomatoes (29 oz.)
1/2 sweet onion
5-8 garlic cloves
1/2 to 1 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed
1/2 to 1 (depending on size) bunch cilantro
1 tsp. salt or to taste

Rough chop all ingredients and then purée in a blender or food processor until fairly smooth. (You will probably want to go ahead and mince the jalapeño fairly fine, especially if you are using a food processor, just to make sure you don't leave any large chunks.)

That's it!!!

Just a couple of additional tips on handling jalapeños if you have not done it before: do handle them with care. They are kind of deceptive little dudes that make you think you are just chopping a small green pepper until 20 minutes after you're done chopping them and your fingers are on fire. Gloves are really recommended when chopping jalapeños, but if you don't have any, make sure you wash your hands immediately and thoroughly after handling them, and while you still have the juice on your hands, be VERY careful not to do anything like rubbing your eyes or touching someone else. And just in case you are very unfamiliar with jalapeños, the seeds and the little whitish ribs on the inside are the hottest parts, so be sure to remove them if you don't want a whole lot of heat.

And there you have it!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

One of the first things I learned how to cook was my family's version of tuna noodle casserole. Since I started this blog, I've tried several times to tweak or re-invent the formula my family used, yet I keep coming back to making it the same old way. I think it's the tanginess of the relish and mayo... I kept trying to make it more savory, but I missed the tang. It's very simple, nothing that's going to wow anyone -- basically just tuna salad over pasta -- but to me it's a "comfort food." Plus it's super easy. And considering I have three kids 4 and under, easy is always good.

The one major deviation that I have taken from the family's traditional recipe is that I leave out the cheese. Back in the old days, the cheese was pretty much the centerpiece of this dish. It was almost more like a glorified mac 'n' cheese that happened to have some tuna thrown in. Since I went off dairy for my nursing babies' sakes, I had a hard time enjoying this meal for a while. Now after a few years off dairy, I believe I've gotten the formula down to where I usually enjoy it just fine without the cheese, but I will admit I do enjoy an occasional sprinkle of parmesan on top. So, below I've included the basic recipe and some additions that I like to toss in to make it more interesting.

And just FYI, this is pictured in a bowl, but it probably really belongs on a plate. But I mix up the tuna in the bowl, and I figure since it's already dirty I might as well eat out of it and save a plate.


1 lb. package gluten-free pasta*
3 cans tuna
1/4 c. mayonnaise (or to taste)**
1/4 c. relish (or to taste)
A few tbs. milk or rice milk (optional)
Additional veggies (optional, see step 4)
Approx. 1 cup shredded cheese (optional) OR Parmesan cheese to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Remember to salt water generously and rinse pasta with cold water after cooking. (This will stop the cooking to keep the pasta from becoming mushy as rice pasta tends to do, and it will rinse off the slimy residue often left by the ricey pasta water.)

2. While pasta is cooking, mix tuna with mayo and relish in a smallish bowl as you would a tuna salad.

3. When pasta is finished, return it to the pot. Add tuna and toss. (Using a fork will help break up the tuna and mix it in more evenly.) If you would prefer this meal cold, and if you added more mayo than suggested so that it helps moisten the noodles, feel free to enjoy as is. Otherwise, I usually add a few splashes of milk and heat until the moisture is absorbed and the noodles are reheated.

4. If you are not limited by dairy allergies (or the calorific implications of added cheese), I will say I always thought it was quite tasty with some cheese added on top. You may add it to your individual dishes if you like your cheese more firm, but I always liked mine totally melted, so I would add it in with the milk when I reheated the noodles. To be honest, I've been off dairy so long now that too much cheese kinda grosses me out, so topping it off with a little parmesan works just fine for me. I also sometimes like to add in a cup or two of cooked peas, and/or some diced and sauteed veggies. (I usually have just done onions, but things like peppers, celery, and mushrooms would do nicely. Ooo... mushrooms... I need to try that!) My girls are not huge fans of added veggies, though, so most of the time I just make it without any of the additions above.

*I've used many different types of rice pasta -- spaghetti, macaroni, penne, rotini... They all work.

**Use however much you'd normally mix with 3 cans of tuna. This is one of those recipes where I never measure anything. For me, it usually ends up being 2-3 heavy scoops with a tablespoon. Same goes for the relish.